2011 NBA All-Star Game

Is it time for NBA stars to be more vocal during lockout?

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When the NFL was locked out during the summer, Drew Brees was front and center at the negotiating table, then standing in front of the cameras talking after the meetings. Tom Brady was one of the guys to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league. While in the end Jeff Saturday did the dirty work of negotiating, the stars were front and center.

For the NBA, you hear union president Derek Fisher speak, and sometimes other team reps like Roger Mason Jr., Maurice Evans or Jared Dudley.

Is it time for the stars to speak out for the union? Some around the league told David Aldridge of NBA.com that yes, the time is now.

“We’re all coming together and trying to speak to Derek Fisher, who’s a great guy and a great person,” Clippers forward Craig Smith said recently. “At the same time, there’s kind of a difference between him and Kobe. Just being honest….

“I think I would want to see them at the bargaining table,” Smith said last month, at the Goodman (D.C.)-Shaw League (L.A.) game in Washington. “I mean, I don’t know, I probably have a lot of people that probably agree with me, too, if we had those guys up front. Because (those are) people (who) you come to see win, every single game — [Dwyane] Wade, Carmelo, Stoudemire, KG [Kevin Garnett], you know? Those are our leading guys, every year.”

Aldridge asked Carmelo Anthony why the stars have not been front and center in this fight.

“We’re not allowed,” Anthony said. “I mean, everybody has their own opinion. You hear people talk here and there. But nobody comes out and says what they really want to say. That’s just the society we live in.”

He laughed a little. And, then: “Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali-type statements.”

Don’t bring in Ali, who said actual controversial things and then had to pay a price for his beliefs. Ali was talking about war and religion; you guys are talking about how to divide up billions amongst yourselves.

After that, Anthony said that he and guys like LeBron James and Chris Paul fully support the union. That they are sticking together.

A lot of stars attended a meeting All-Star Weekend that was mostly for show. And at a regional meeting just last month Kobe spoke to other players and urged them to stay unified behind Fisher and Hunter.

But would having the biggest stars in the league at the table make a difference? Likely not much in the negotiations. You can be sure a hardline owner is not going to be swayed by an argument because Kobe said it not Fisher or some attorney. It might help some with the public relations battle going on, giving the union a more recognizable face to put with the players positions. It can help show the players unity. It would get more publicity.

The NBA’s big stars were front and center in the 1998 labor battles but that was part of the problem — other union members thought the big names were out for themselves. So this time around they are staying quiet, letting the union leadership do the talking. And now they are getting criticized for that.

It may not matter if the stars step forward, but it might help some.

Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins probable to play against Dallas Monday

DeMarcus Cousins
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It’s this simple: The Sacramento Kings are 5-5 when DeMarcus Cousins plays this season, 1-7 when he sits. (And that win number is a big misleading, they looked like they would have beaten Charlotte with him, but when he left with back pain they lost, they could easily be 6-4 with him.)

So it’s good news that Cousins is expected to return to the Sacramento lineup Monday night. Well not good for Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks, but good for the Kings, as reported by James Ham at CSNBayArea,com.

This season Cousins is averaging 27.9 points and 11.2 rebounds a game, he has a true shooting percentage above the league average (56.3 percent for Cousins) and he has a PER of 27.1 which is sixth best in the league.

Combine him with the numbers Rajon Rondo has put up lately the Kings become much more dangerous. They’d be even scarier if everyone stayed healthy and George Karl would settle on a lineup.

PBT Extra: Kobe Bryant understands now is time to walk away

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It was expected Kobe Bryant would retire at the end of this season.

It was not expected Kobe would make that official on Nov. 29 — it’s caught the media at Staples Center Sunday (of which I was one) and the fans by surprise.

In this PBT Extra, I talk with Jenna Corrado about the mood inside Staples Center Sunday.

More importantly, I discuss the sense I got that Kobe understands it’s time to walk away, and he is at peace with that.

Luke Walton: Warriors concerned about health, not 72 wins

Andre Iguodala, Luke Walton
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Stephen Curry acknowledges the Warriors – who are 18-0 and won four straight to end last season – talk about the NBA record of 33 consecutive wins.

But what about another major record Golden State is chasing, 72 wins in a season?

Shooting guard Klay Thompson called it possible. General manager Bob Myers deemed it impossible.

Interim coach Luke Walton would prefer everyone just keep quiet.

Walton, via CSN Bay Area:

“The 72 thing is far, far away,” Walton said. “We shouldn’t be spending any time thinking about that.

“I’ve also said before that we’re not going to coach this season trying to chase that record,” Walton said

“We’re still going to give players nights off on back-to-backs,” he added. “And we’re going to do our best to limit minutes for some of our players. Our main concern is being healthy come playoff time.”

I don’t think Golden State will win 72 games, but prioritizing health won’t necessary stop the Warriors. They’re so deep.

They outscore opponents by 5.8 points per 100 possessions when Curry sits, 5.6 when Draymond Green sits. Those marks would rank seventh among all NBA teams.

Golden State has the luxury of resting players and continuing to win. That’s what makes the chase for 72 realistic. This team is less likely than most to wear down late in a season where it’s pushing to win every game.

Health entering the playoffs is important, but a 72-win season would raise these Warriors to legendary status. If they’re in range late in the season, I think they’ll go for it – even if the top seed is already secured.

But for now, Walton is probably taking the right approach. Plenty of teams start fast (though never this fast) then drift back toward the pack. No point risking Golden State’s health yet.

Kevin Durant to media: You treated Kobe Bryant ‘like s—‘

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant once told the media, “You guys really don’t know s—.”

The Thunder star expressed regret, but if he knew how we were going to treat Kobe Bryant, he might have stuck to his guns.

Durant, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

I did idolize Kobe Bryant. I studied him, wanted to be like him. He was our Michael Jordan. I watched Michael towards the end of his career when he was with the Wizards, and I seen that’s what Kobe emerged as the guy for us.

I’ve been disappointed this year because you guys treated him like s—. He’s a legend, and all I hear is about how bad he’s playing, how bad he’s shooting. It’s time for him to hang it up. You guys treated one of our legends like s—, and I didn’t really like it. So hopefully, now you can start being nice to him now that he decided to retire after this year. It was sad the way he was getting treated, in my opinion.

But he had just an amazing career, a guy who changed the game for me as a player mentally and physically. Means so much to the game of basketball. Somebody I’m always going to look to for advice, for help, for anything. Just a brilliant, brilliant, intelligent man. And it’s sad to see him go.

Kobe is shooting 20% from the floor and 30% on 3-pointers for a 2-14 team. How else should we describe his season?

Why not bash the person most publicly critical of Kobe? Or the many people around the NBA who recognize how far Kobe has fallen? Or Byron Scott, who has repeatedly intensified discussion of Kobe’s demise?

Why is the media, which is not some monolithic entity anyway, the primary target?

There are writers who fawn over Kobe, writers who criticize him and many more who do both. We don’t all think alike.

If we did, Durant would be bound to treat Kobe like s—, too.